Time series-adapted Poisson regression models were fitted to daily counts of laboratory reports of norovirus in England and Wales from 1993 to 2006.
Inverse linear associations with daily temperature over the previous seven weeks (rate ratio (RR) = 0.85; 95% CI: 0.83 to 0.86 for every 1 degrees C increase) and relative humidity over the previous five weeks (RR = 0.980; 95% CI: 0.973 to 0.987 for every 1% increase) were found, with temperature having a greater overall effect. The emergence of new norovirus variants (RR = 1.16; 95% CI: 1.10 to 1.22) and low population immunity were also associated with heightened norovirus activity. Temperature and humidity, which may be localised, had highly consistent effects in each region of England and Wales.
Norovirus, the most commonly identified cause of both sporadic cases and outbreaks of infectious diarrhoea in developed countries, exhibits a complex epidemiology and has a strong wintertime seasonality. Viral populations are dynamic and evolve under positive selection pressure.
These results point to a complex interplay between host, viral and climatic factors driving norovirus epidemic patterns. Increases in norovirus are associated with cold, dry temperature, low population immunity and the emergence of novel genogroup 2 type 4 antigenic variants.